Papers, Please is certainly a unique and interesting experience. The game tasks you as an immigration inspector at the border of the fictitious country of Arstotzka. You job is to approve or deny entry into the country based on whether there are discrepancies in the paperwork presented. Although it may sound like something you should be paid to do in real life, it is actually quite addictive.
Papers, Please starts off a little slow, but as you progress it becomes increasingly more interesting. As you continue to approve or deny entry, the game presents you with subplots that keep you interested. I find that this is the highlight of the game. For instance, some people may ask you to deny access to another person down the line, explaining that if they are approved they could be killed by them. This presents you with an interesting moral dilemma: Deny that person access, even if they have the correct paperwork, and take the penalty for an unauthorized denial, or accept that person anyways to avoid penalty. This plays into the other aspect of the game which is maintaining the health and welfare of your family. You are paid based on how many people you correctly process. Although you are allowed two mistakes per day without cash deduction, you still only make a certain amount of money to pay for food, rent, heat, and medicine.
Each level is broken down it days. You are presented with a time limit to correctly process as many people as you can. This provides you with another interesting choice: skim through the paperwork and risk taking penalties, or be meticulous and thorough. I found that a happy medium between both was the best option. Although I usually made a few mistakes and took a few penalties, I was able to make a decent amount of money at the end of the day. This encompassed with the moral dilemmas presented means you are never bored.
The only problem that I had with this game was that sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed with all the decisions. In addition to regular inspection and subplots, each day added additional rules that you have to follow. For example, on a new work day, all immigrants from a certain country were required to be searched every time they came through the checkpoint. It may not sound like much, but with all the other things to consider, sometimes it can be easy to forget.
On the flip side, at the end of a hard day’s work, you are tasked with deciding what to spend your money on in regards to your family. You may want to save 20 credits for later, but your family goes that day without eating. There is no time limit on these choices. This offers another interesting gameplay element, but it is also a welcome break from the timed work day.
Although the graphics look like this game is from the 16-bit era, the presentation is flawless. The gray backdrop of the inspection checkpoint makes you feel like you’re actually working a desk job in a Soviet-like country. The closest thing I can compare it to is the movie adaptation of 1984. The further notion that you were chosen to do this job by a labor lottery helps solidify this. Also, this may be a subtle detail, but having desk in front of you in which to drag and drop paperwork, pull out approval or denial stamps, and look at your rulebook adds to the realism of the experience. This makes the game feel less like…. well…. a game and more like an actual job. Having the ability to actually hand people their paperwork instead of pressing a button simply makes the illusion more real.
All-in-all, Papers, Please is certainly a game at least worth trying, although the $10 price tag is a little steep in my opinion. It may seem like a simple game on the surface, but it is actually a thought provoking experience. The only players that I think should stay away from this game are those who do not like racing against time. If you are looking for a more relaxing indie experience, I would not recommend this game. Otherwise, Papers, Please is a fun and interesting experience that any gamer would enjoy. This absolutely deserves my recommendation.